Two minutes. That is all it took for Chile to put Friday’s defeat to Argentina behind them and kick-start the long road to Brazil 2014 with a manic 4-2 win over Andean rivals Peru – providing the perfect tonic for an ill Claudio Borghi. Defensive errors that plagued the team in the 4-1 defeat to La Albiceleste were still evident and show no sign of being eradicated but further forward La Roja continue to exhilarate and excite.
Eduardo Vargas – who was one of three Chilean changes from Friday – gave La Roja a dynamic presence in attack troubling Peru with his direct runs and pace while the combination of Gary Medel and Arturo Vidal in the midfield provide a solid base with bite – defensively and offensively. Then there is ‘El Mago’ himself, Jorge Valdivia. He truly is the magician, his feet wands linking midfield and attack, disappearing and reappearing at the right times.
La Rojiblanca will travel home regretting the opening 30 minutes where they were reminiscent of Chile in Argentina, the defence lacking suitable protection in what was an attacking line-up, Claudio Pizarro, Pablo Guerrero, Jefferson Farfán and Juan Manuel Vargas all included. There was also the small matter of hitting the woodwork four times.
From the kick-off Chile showed no signs of unease after Friday’s loss, their positive start rewarded with barely 80 seconds elapsed. Valdivia’s corner was met at the near post by Vidal who flicked the ball into the six yard box to be attacked by centre-back Waldo Ponce from three yards out.
La Roja begun as if they had a point to prove, forcing Peru back with their direct and incisive passing, Mauricio Isla enjoying plenty of freedom down the right-hand side.
A minute after Vidal had stung the palms of Raúl Fernández the lead was doubled. Valdivia again at the heart of all things Chile. Jean Beausejour exchanging passes with the Chilean ‘No 10’; the Birmingham player sent speeding away down the left away from Renzo Revoredo, firing a low cross to the front post to be turned in by Vargas after a dart away from his markers.
Valdivia was enjoying himself. A lovely ball in between full-back and centre-back set Isla free but this time Vargas blazed over from the Udinese wing-back’s brilliant cut back.
La Roja attainted a balance that was missing against Argentina in the midfield partnership of Medel and Vidal. They are a perfect combination in the centre of midfield. Both supplement their pit bulls with a grudge attitude with lungs of a horse, dovetailing effectively in midfield. They go through an abundance of work, effortlessly switching from defence mode to attack mode – Medel more inclined to hold his position to let Vidal join in play further up the field.
The addition of the duo in the midfield did not automatically fix all the problems and Peru should have pulled at least one goal back before half-time. Rinaldo Cruzado bouncing his shot off the turf onto the top of the bar after Farfán had found the Chievo man unmarked at the back post. Then in the 40th minute Eduardo Vargas saw his shot beaten away by Fernández as Chile broke forward from a Peru corner. Only for Peru to then go back up the park seconds later and hit the post through Guerrero. A firm strike across goal, taking a deflection and coming back off the inside of the post.
A breathless end to the first half.
Yet the 15 minute break did nothing to stop the match ebbing from end to end. Three minutes into the second half La Roja increased their lead further. Bolivian referee Raúl Orosco played a great advantage as Valdivia was felled, allowing Medel to gain possession as the ball went free and drive into the Peru half only stopping to unleash an unstoppable drive with the outside of his right foot into the top corner from 25 yards.
Game over you think? Not quite yet. Replays of the second goal were still being shown on Chilean television when the pictures cut to Pizarro wheeling away having made the score 3-1. A quick passing move ended with Claudio Bravo unorthodoxly beating way Cruzado’s stinging shot. Pizarro picked up the rebound on the right-hand side of the box, easily bustling himself away from Beausejour’s half-hearted challenge and from an acute angle squeezing the ball past Bravo. The ‘keeper did not cover himself in glory.
The game was now dominated by Peru. Unlike the first half Chile’s wide men struggled to see possession in the opposition’s half, instead having to focus their efforts defensively as Peru pushed further up the pitch. And the pressure started to tell. First Pizarro’s a free header from a corner landed at the feet of the lonesome Guerrero and even though he mis-controlled the ball looped up and had to be headed off the line by Medel at the back post.
Two minutes later, on the hour mark, Farfáan put the cat amongst the pigeons, making it 3-2. Vargas’s free-kick bordered on perfection, Farfán only needing the slightest of touches to score. It was made all the easier considering he was unmarked and Bravo was caught in no-mans land flailing at the cross.
But there was no let up as moments later Chile had restored their two goal lead. Valdivia was this time on the end of a clever through ball from Humberto Suazo. Sidestepping the goalkeeper Fernández chopped the playmaker down before he could get his deserved goal. Suazo powerfully converted the spot-kick.
The goal brought as much relief as there was joy. It had checked Peru’s resurgence and even though they continued to push men forward a lack of ideas and luck deserted them. Cruzado going close yet again only to see his shot from the edge of the box cannon back of the bottom of the post. But Chile saw more chances fall their way as the game the away side’s defence was neglected. Substitute Esteban Paredes could have scored twice within 10 minutes of coming on. First in the unoccupied right-back position his fierce shot was turned over by Fernández then from a swift break dwon the right Isla laid the ball into the centre for Paredes to run on to but he rushed and scooped the ball over.
And to rub salt into the wounds Peru would end the feisty affair by hitting the woodwork. Again. William Chiroque, on as a late substitute, doing well to stay on side, controlling a lofted pass but just as the ball looked to be goal bound it came back of the bar to compound the Peruvians luck in front of goal.
For Chile, without trying to over exaggerate them importance of the result, a win was imperative even at this early stage. The South American qualifiers are going to be the most competitive in recent history and home form is crucial. No team as of yet – Colombia and Ecuador have only played the one match – has recorded two wins out of two; Argentina falling to a 1-0 loss in Caracas.
With a fully fit squad Borghi has a myriad of attacking options from which to choose from as well as a balanced and quality midfield. It is in defence and the defending of set-pieces which need to see improvement. Pablo Contreras and Osvaldo González should help with that.
If anything can be gleamed from the first two qualifiers it is Chile will thrill with their attacking and expansive forward play. And there will be goals. Lots of goals.
Highlights of Chile v Peru and other South American qualifiers can be found at http://resumencdf.com/